Person Ineligible U/s 29A IBC To Submit Resolution Plan Cannot Propose Scheme Of Compromise & Arrangement U/s 230 Companies Act 2013: Supreme Court

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Case: Arun Kumar Jagatramka vs. Jindal Steel and Power Ltd

Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah

Case No: [CA 9664 of 2019]

Case Observation: “It would lead to a manifest absurdity if the very persons who are ineligible for submitting a resolution plan, participating in the sale of assets of the company in liquidation or participating in the sale of the corporate debtor as a ‘going concern’, are somehow permitted to propose a compromise or arrangement under Section 230 of the Act of 2013.”, the Apex Court bench observed.

The statutory scheme underlying the IBC and the legislative history of its linkage with Section 230 of the Act of 2013, in the context of a company which is in liquidation, has important consequences for the outcome of the controversy in the present case.

The first point is that a liquidation under Chapter III of the IBC follows upon the entire gamut of proceedings contemplated under that statute. The second point to be noted is that one of the modes of revival in the course of the liquidation process is envisaged in the enabling provisions of Section 230 of the Act of 2013, to which recourse can be taken by the liquidator appointed under Section 34 of the IBC.

The third point is that the statutorily contemplated activities of the liquidator do not cease while inviting a scheme of compromise or arrangement under Section 230. The appointment of the liquidator in an IBC liquidation is provided in Section 34 and their duties are specified in Section 35. In taking recourse to the provisions of Section 230 of the Act of 2013, the liquidator appointed under the IBC is , above all, to attempt a revival of the corporate debtor so as to save it from the prospect of a corporate death.

The consequence of the approval of the scheme of revival or compromise, and its sanction thereafter by the Tribunal under Sub-section (6), is that the scheme attains a binding character upon stakeholders including the liquidator who has been appointed under the IBC. In this backdrop, it is difficult to accept the submission of Mr Bajaj that Section 230 of the Act of 2013 is a standalone provision which has no connect with the provisions of the IBC.

Undoubtedly, Section 230 of the Act of 2013 is wider in its ambit in the sense that it is not confined only to a company in liquidation or to corporate debtor which is being wound up under Chapter III of the IBC. Obviously, therefore, the rigors of the IBC will not apply to proceedings under Section 230 of the Act of 2013 where the scheme of compromise or arrangement proposed is in relation to an entity which is not the subject of a proceeding under the IBC.

But, when, as in the present case, the process of invoking the provisions of Section 230 of the Act of 2013 traces its origin or, as it may be described, the trigger to the liquidation proceedings which have been initiated under the IBC, it becomes necessary to read both sets of provisions in harmony. A harmonious construction between the two statutes would ensure that while on the one hand a scheme of compromise or arrangement under Section 230 is being pursued, this takes place in a manner which is consistent with the underlying principles of the IBC because the scheme is proposed in respect of an entity which is undergoing liquidation under Chapter III of the IBC. As such, the company has to be protected from its management and a corporate death.

It would lead to a manifest absurdity if the very persons who are ineligible for submitting a resolution plan, participating in the sale of assets of the company in liquidation or participating in the sale of the corporate debtor as a ‘going concern’, are somehow permitted to propose a compromise or arrangement under Section 230 of the Act of 2013.

“We find no merit in this contention. As explained above, the stages of submitting a resolution plan, selling assets of a company in liquidation and selling the company as a going concern during liquidation, all indicate that the promoter or those in the management of the company must not be allowed a back-door entry in the company and are hence, ineligible to participate during these stages.

Proposing a scheme of compromise or arrangement under Section 230 of the Act of 2013, while the company is undergoing liquidation under the provisions of the IBC lies in a similar continuum. Thus, the prohibitions that apply in the former situations must naturally also attach to the latter to ensure that like situations are treated equally.”, the court said.

“The liquidator appointed under the provisions of Chapter III of the IBC is entrusted with several powers and duties. Sections 37 to 42 of the IBC are illustrative of the powers of the liquidator in the course of the liquidation. The liquidator exercises several functions which are of a quasi-judicial in nature and character. Section 35(1) itself enunciates that the powers and duties which are entrusted to the liquidator are “subject to the directions of the adjudicating authority”.

The liquidator, in other words, exercises functions which have been made amenable to the jurisdiction of the NCLT, acting as the Adjudicating Authority. To hold therefore that the ineligibility prescribed under the provisions of Section 35(1)(f) can be disregarded by the Tribunal for the purpose of considering an application for a scheme of compromise or arrangement under Section 230 of the Act of 2013, in respect of a company which is under liquidation under the IBC, would not be a correct construction of the provisions of law.”

“The position in our view can be considered from two perspectives, independent of the provisions of Regulation 2B. We have indicated in the discussion earlier that even in the absence of the Regulation 2B, a person ineligible under Section 29A read with Section 35(1)(f) is not permitted to propose a scheme for revival under Section 230, in the case of a company which is undergoing a liquidation under the IBC.

We have come to the conclusion, as noted for the reasons indicated earlier, that in the case of a company which is undergoing liquidation pursuant to the provisions of Chapter III of the IBC, a scheme of compromise or arrangement proposed under Section 230 is a facet of the liquidation process. The object of the scheme of compromise or arrangement is to revive the company. The principle was enunciated in the decision in Meghal Homes (supra) while construing the provisions of erstwhile Section 391.

The same rationale which permeates the resolution process under Chapter II (by virtue of the provisions of Section 29A) permeates the liquidation process under Chapter III (by virtue of the provisions of Section 35(1)(f)). That being the position, there can be no manner of doubt that the proviso to Regulation 2B is clarificatory in nature.

Even absent the proviso, a person who is ineligible under Section 29A would not be permitted to propose a compromise or arrangement under Section 230 of the Act of 2013. We therefore do not find any merit in the challenge to the validity of Regulation 2B.”

Based on the above analysis, we find that the prohibition placed by the Parliament in Section 29A and Section 35(1)(f) of the IBC must also attach itself to a scheme of compromise or arrangement under Section 230 of the Act of 2013, when the company is undergoing liquidation under the auspices of the IBC. As such, Regulation 2B of the Liquidation Process Regulations, specifically the proviso to Regulation 2B(1), is also constitutionally valid.


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